China Gets Tough on Property Sales

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Tough day for China, with the Shanghai Index down 3.7 percent as its government gets serious about reining in the property sector, ordering a stricter enforcement of sales taxes.

China's cabinet, or State Council, said Friday that it plans to enforce a 20 percent capital gains tax on the sale of second-hand homes, as well as higher downpayments and interest rates. Mainland China has tumbled more than six percent since the start of February as government interference with property prices has loomed.

(Read More: China Property Curbs May Knock 10% Off Prices)

While this has ripple effects — the Australian dollar has weakened — this does not appear to be the start of an economy-wide credit squeeze. Instead, it appears to be limited to the property sector.

Japan's stock market finished just shy of a four-year high, rising for a third straight session, after candidate for Bank of Japan chief Haruhiko Kuroda said achieving a two percent inflation target as soon as possible would be his top priority. Kuroda is seen as a strong backer of aggressive monetary easing and has long voiced his support for a weaker currency to help boost export manufacturers.

(Read More: Kuroda Signals Aggressive Monetary Policy Coming)

Italy is down 0.6 percent as little progress was made over the weekend forming a new government.


1) Keystone pipeline advances. The Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement released late Friday by the Department of State (DOS) is being viewed by most analysts as a positive. The DOS said the pipeline will not result in any substantive change in greenhouse gas emissions or change the rate of development of the oil sands. In other words, the tar sands will be developed with or without the pipeline. This greatly increases the chances that a Presidential Permit will be forthcoming.

(Read More: IHS CERAWEEK 2013)

Next step: A final environmental statement, after a 45-day commentary period. The pipeline, if completed, will run from Alberta, Canada, enter the U.S. in Montana then go on to Nebraska, and then from Nebraska to Cushing, Okla., where a separate portion will complete the trip from Cushing to refiners on the Gulf Coast. It will help alleviate a supply glut at Cushing and will help provide crude oil to refiners to the Gulf Coast.

This is bullish for certain Canadian and U.S. refiners and producers, who have been under some pressure from slightly lower oil prices and much lower natural gas prices. It is particularly bullish for TransCanada, the lead developer of the project. Canadian Natural Resources, a Canadian crude producer, has also committed to shipping crude on the pipeline. Others include Cenovus Energy and Baytex Energy.

Firms that do pipeline construction could also benefit, including Quanta Services, MasTec, Primoris Services, and Willbros Group.

2) Boyd Gaming coming in with earnings and revenue well below expectations, citing in part the closure of the Borgata in Atlantic City (50 pecent owned by Boyd), due to super storm Sandy, but there were also lower-than-expected results in casinos in the Midwest and South.

3) Big week for central banks: Six central banks will announce whether they will change interest rates next week, principally the European Central Bank, Bank of Japan, and the Bank of England, but also Brazil, Canada and Australia. The ECB might cut rates, and that's one of the reasons the euro was so weak in February — it's near a two-month low against the dollar. The Bank of England, which has interest rates at a half percent, may announce additional asset purchases to shore up the economy.

4) On March 7, we get bank stress tests results for the 19 largest banks. A week later, on March 14, the companies tell us how much stock they will be buying back and whether there will be any dividend increases (this is called the Comprehensive Capital Assessment Review. If they get the green light, they can get deploy more capital, potentially increasing dividends.

The expectations is that all 19 will pass. Last year, remember, Citigroup, SunTrust Banks, and Ally Financial failed.

Hopes for higher dividends are definitely in the air. Citi or example, pays a $0.01 dividend. Most are expecting a modest increase to, say, $0.03, which would not make any real difference.

There may be some higher expectations for other banks, like SunTrust or Regions Financial, which still pay a de minimis dividend.

By CNBC's Bob Pisani